Legacy, bribery are not an indication of students’ merit, capability
Recently, the U.S. Department of Justice charged 50 people with cheating the admissions process at elite universities, either by paying to cheat on standardized exams or bribing the schools’ athletic coaches to accept students as athletes despite having never played the sport. These charges included well-known actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin. Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, who paid $500,000 to have their children designated as recruits for the University of Southern California crew team. While this may have been shocking to news to some, it only served to prove what so many students already know: Wealth and privilege give prospective students an unfair advantage over other deserving students.
The scandal has since inspired other wealthy people, like rapper and producer Dr. Dre in a now-deleted Instagram post, to brag that their children were accepted to universities on their own merit. It’s naive to think that Dr. Dre’s $70 million donation in 2013 to USC to found the Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy for Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation didn’t influence his daughter’s admission decision.
And while it’s easy to focus on those that donate large sums of money or brazenly break the law, it’s also important to recognize that privilege is presented in more ways than paying to cheat on an SAT or funding a new building. The growing industry of college admissions counselors who charge thousands of dollars to supposedly ensure admissions to elite schools by essentially filling out prospective students’ applications further distance the student from the admissions process. It further privileges students whose families can afford these services. Having the opportunity to hire standardized test tutors and private admissions counselors and attend elite secondary schools give wealthy students a considerable leg up in the world. Legacy preference at private schools also undercuts other students’ hard work.
Even having parents who read to their children when they’re young or coming from a two-parent household gives students a significant advantage in their academic pursuits. The state of California, to make education more equitable, needs to place more of an emphasis on serving historically underrepresented communities.
Even though the University of California boasts that it admits a large percentage of low-income students, many of these students graduate tens of thousands of dollars in debt because of the lack of academic and financial support they receive. This essentially traps them in the same systemic poverty that higher education is allegedly supposed to alleviate.
Although UC Berkeley and UCLA are state-funded schools and tout their commitment to diversity, both are having to investigate instances of fraud in their admissions. UC Berkeley is investigating a case of a now-graduated student who submitted false SAT scores and UCLA has placed its head men’s soccer coach Jorge Salcedo on leave.
The Editorial Board demands that both UC President Janet Napolitano and UC Admissions commission independent investigations of all instances where fraud may have been involved — not just those in the Department of Justice’s indictment. Decision makers in the higher education system need to develop stronger safeguards against many types of admissions fraud, from falsified test scores to improper athletic recruitment practices. They need to restructure their application process so not as much advantage is given to wealthy families.
Written by: The Editorial Board